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Rentership Ranks on the Rise: Canadian Cities With Highest Shares of Renters

Rentership at an all-time high, no longer just a young people’s game; Montréal leads in share of tenant households as renting spreads across all generations.

by Alexandra Ciuntu
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3 min. read
  • Renter rush: As many as 28 in 50 major cities have tenant shares higher than the 33% national average, including more than half the households in Vancouver, BC, and Sherbrooke, QC, that are renting.
  • But it’s Montréal that boasts the highest share of renters among Canada’s largest cities, with more than 63% of households occupied by renters.
  • Richmond, BC, sees the biggest boost in tenant households among major cities, as the renter share jumping from 17.6% to 28.7% in just five years.
  • One Ontario city has the highest share of young renters — and it’s not Toronto or Ottawa: Student-heavy Kingston has a whopping 92.9% of its residents under 24 renting.
  • At the same time, the aging population is also contributing to the rise in rental demand, with seniors aged 65+ increasingly becoming renters, as is the case in Terrebonne, QC.

Nearly 1 million more renter households in a decade, according to the latest Census. Whether it’s about having the flexibility to move whenever, pinching pennies or just freedom from fixing leaky faucets, one thing’s for sure: Canada has reached unprecedented levels of renters — and Montréal is leading the charge in this change.

At the forefront of this renter revolution lie ongoing demographic shifts — including increased numbers of newcomers, an aging population, and people relocating closer to job hubs. But there are also practical reasons, like the financial benefits of renting in this high-priced housing market, as well as an increased preference for a maintenance-free lifestyle.

From frequently renting Gen Z to potentially downsizing Baby Boomers, the 2016 and 2021 Census counts reveal upticks in renting across all age groups. So, with renters increasing at twice the rate of homeowners during this five-year period, it begs the question: Is renting becoming the go-to housing option for Canadians?

Zooming in on renter shares in the country’s 50 largest cities, Point2 analysts lean toward an affirmative answer.

Rentership Boom: More Tenants Than Ever Before

Young Millennials & Baby Boomers make up the largest cohorts of renters in Canada

Renters make up 33.4% of households in Canada — the highest percentage it’s ever been. As expected, the largest share is represented by young Millennials still working out their balance up the property ladder by their mid-30s. The kicker is that senior renters over 65 are right at their heels.

And, although young people tend to dominate and make up the largest chunk of tenants in Canada, renting has become widespread across all age brackets.

News like the Canadian Renters’ Bill of Rights and a new housing aid fund in the federal budget aim to make renters’ lives easier amid bottom-of-the-barrel vacancy rates and rental demand outpacing supply in most major markets.

The same overflowing demand that has led to a significant portion of recently built homes becoming increasingly renter-occupied: More than 40% of dwellings built between 2016 and 2021 being rented out — the highest tenant rate in decades.

 

Cities With Highest Shares of Renters: Montréal Reigns with 63%+, Twice the National Average

Over 54% of Vancouver households opt to rent in the city, where home prices go for nearly $1.3 million

More than half of the households in Montréal, Vancouver, and Sherbrooke, QC, are renting. For many in Vancouver, renting might be the only option in light of untouchable home prices, whereas in Sherbrooke, renting by choice can potentially be a better financial decision than buying. That’s because, alongside Québec sisters Trois-Rivières and Saguenay, Sherbrooke is one of the three major cities where rent is less than $1,500, even in the city center.

 

Likewise, Montréal is known for some of the lowest average rent prices among the country’s largest markets. In fact, according to Numbeo, rents in the city center (about $3,000) are significantly lower compared to average rents in other major downtowns like Toronto, Vancouver, and nearby Burnaby. Of course, that’s not to say this quickly changing market is not experiencing shifts in rent prices as alternatives like lease swapping gain steam.

Toronto has the highest number of renter households (551,290) among the 50 largest cities in the country. However, it ranks fifth in terms of the percentage of tenants, hovering around 48% — nearly as much as the renter share in smaller and more affordable Longueuil, QC.

Meanwhile, given its vast student population attending Queen's University at Kingston, nearly 93% of Kingston's under-24-year-olds go for renting. And, true to its title as the most attractive Canadian city for Gen Z, Montréal displays an equally huge share of young tenants.

 

Growth in Rentership Ripples Through Major Cities: More Tenants in 49 of 50 Cities

Uptick in baby boomer renters as young Millennials drive surge

In a country where 18 out of 50 major cities have benchmark home prices above $1 million, a boost in rentership is bound to happen.

To that end, with a jump in renter share from 17.6% to 28.7%, Richmond, BC, claims the biggest increase in tenant households, followed by a cohort of Ontario cities, including Waterloo and Markham. In the five years leading to the 2021 Census, the three cities showcased increased percentages of renters as the shares of homeowners dwindled in light of home prices on the up and up.

 

 

While Montréal had the smallest spike, it nevertheless boasts the highest percentage of tenants. As a matter of fact, the percentage of renters has grown in all but one of the 50 major cities in Canada: Only in Richmond Hill did the share of renters dwindle from 25.7% to 21.7%. And, that’s despite the fact that the Ontario city has the most expensive benchmark home price (nearly $1.5 million), as well as one of the highest renter household incomes (nearly $72,650). Theoretically, this might tip the scales in favour of renting in the city just north of Toronto. Yet, Richmond Hill attracts families looking to settle down in a safe area near good schools — as proven by a homeownership share of more than 78%.

The rental market in Canada is particularly popular among younger demographics, with more than 81% of under-24-year-olds and more than half of 25-to-34-year-olds renting. And, although Gen Z and young Millennials lead the surge in rentership, there's also an uptick in baby boomer renters.

Check out where different age groups saw the biggest spikes in renting:

In Terrebonne, QC, senior renters aged 65 and older increased from 24.6% to 31% between the two latest official Census counts — a jump similar to renters between 25 and 34 years old. Shifts like this underscore that the country's aging population is becoming a relevant driver of rental demand in Canada.

Overall, the growth in rentership reflects ongoing changes in lifestyle and demographics rather than just a passing trend. Plus, with the ban on foreign ownership now extended — as well as the expected spike in the number of newcomers in Canada — the need for more rental housing is becoming more pressing than ever.

 

Methodology   

  • For this study, we considered the 50 largest Census Subdivisions (Cities) based on the most recent data from Statistics Canada 2021 Census of Population.
  • The report focuses on the 2016-2021 rentership evolution among all age groups (the 65+ age group is formed by combining StatCan’s 65 to 74, 75 to 84, and 85+ age groups).
  • 2021 and 2016 data on Renter Households and Owner Households as per Statistics Canada (Housing Indicators by tenure).
  • Benchmark Prices (or median/average sale prices, according to data availability) sourced from CREA and Local Real Estate Boards.
  • Cost of Living for Rent per Numbeo.
  • Renter Household Income sourced at metro level.

 

Fair use and redistribution

We encourage and freely grant permission to reuse, host or repost this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to Point2Homes.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.

 

 

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